STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ)– Nearly 400 residents of the State College area gathered on November 6 to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The walk took place at Medlar Field at 10 a.m., with an opening ceremony to kick off the event.
The walk serves to bring awareness and fundraise in finding a cure for the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 280,000 people in Pennsylvania aged 65 and older live with the disease.
Many of the people at the event have participated in the walk for multiple years. Executive Director at Senior Living Liz Plozner-Chafla says that she walks for her grandmother and patients. She calls it a rewarding feeling.
“My grandmother had lived with dementia, and professionally I have worked with people living with it and their families for the 16 years,” Plozner-Chafla said.
Despite the weather being below 30 degrees, the stadium had a warm atmosphere. The organization hasn’t held the walk in-person in nearly two years. Executive Director of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association, Clayton Jacobs, says that everyone missed the smiles and joy of the event.
“It is a cold morning, and yet we’re warm because of the hundreds of people that come together who care about this disease, who care about making a difference,” Jacobs said. “All I’ve seen is smiles and tears of being back together.”
Participants honored loved ones by taking part in the touching Promise Garden ceremony. The Promise Garden flowers signify people’s connection to Alzheimer’s and why they fight to end the disease. One goal of the organization is to hopefully have someone hold a white flower, which represents a survivor.
The association started the white flower in 2018. Volunteer Amy Smith says that it’s a big step to be able to have that flower available. She walks every year for her mom, Patsy, who passed away from dementia in 2018.
“It’s very meaningful, especially now that we have a white flower, hoping to get a survivor,” Smith said. “We don’t have anyone to carry that yet, but that’s why we’re here so that we can have that person carry that.”
Smith said that this year’s walk was more emotional than in previous years. That is because she could embrace and hug her friends after spending time apart due to the pandemic.
“To be able to see my friends and hug my friends, which I haven’t been able to do,” Smith said. “You know I got to hug a lot of people today.”
The organization has raised $65,000 of their $85,000 goal, having some money coming the week leading up to the walk. For more information about the walk in State College, visit Alzheimer’s Association’s website.
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